Neck Pain: Staying Pain-Free on the Road
by Aaron Lobo on Feb 28, 2022
By Chris Iliades, MD Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Neck pain is experienced by a significant portion of the population. While it can be caused by trauma or medical conditions, it can also be due to stress and strain on the muscles that support the neck, or to the nerves or bones in the neck. And typical activities that can result in a stiff neck include holding your head in an extended position and using your arms and upper body for long periods of time — that’s a pretty good description of driving a car.
Most of us get to work by driving. Because you probably have enough stress to worry about once you get to your job, here’s how to reduce stress and neck pain from getting there and back.
Driving Smart to Avoid Neck Pain
The stress caused by focusing intensely on driving can contribute to neck pain. You can avoid neck pain by adjusting what you do before you start your drive and changing the way you drive.
Start with good driving posture: The best angle for the back of your seat is at 100 degrees, which is just shy of straight. Place your hands in the 3 and 9 o'clock positions on the steering wheel and elbows comfortably on the armrests.
Support your head: Adjust your headrest so that it touches the middle part of the back of your head.
Support your lower back: If your car seat offers lumbar support, adjust it to fill the space at your lower back; if not, a small pillow placed against the bottom part of your seat back will maintain the right shape from tailbone to neck. Also, make sure your seat is close enough to the steering wheel so that you don't have to lean forward.
Adjust your mirrors: Give yourself the widest field of vision with all your mirrors so you don't have to move your head around to see properly.
Avoid eyestrain: Driving with poor vision can lead to eyestrain and cause you to crane your neck forward, which puts pressure on your neck muscles. If you're straining to see while driving, you need to get your vision checked. It sounds obvious, but make sure your windshield is clean to help you see clearly. If you're driving in bright sunlight, use sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV protection.
Cruise along the highway: If you're driving on long stretches of road, cruise control allows you to rest your feet on the floor and take some pressure off your back.
Try a lumbar support pillow: If there’s a gap between the seat and your lower back, you might consider using a lumbar support pillow when you drive. This can help ease lower back pain and support the natural curve of your spine.
Take a break: If you start to get a stiff neck, are feeling neck pain, or better yet want to prevent it, pull into the next rest stop. Do some stretching and walk off the kinks.
If you're like most Americans, you spend a lot of time behind the wheel. You can avoid driving with neck pain by maintaining good posture and making driving adjustments that take the strain off the muscles supporting your neck.
Think about taking frequent breaks to rest and stretch. In most cases it's better to take a little extra time to arrive at your destination if it means getting there neck-pain free.
Apilloz is a light weight, portable and adjustable cervical pillow. When used as directed, Apilloz can offer excellent pain relief to your back, shoulder and neck in less than 15 minutes. Created by a doctor and physical therapist, Apilloz was an invention born out of necessity. While neck and back stretches and exercises can help tremendously, we observed that cervical decompression is what gave our patients the most relief. The unique U shaped design helps decompress the spinal cord, which increases blood flow, oxygenates the surrounding muscles, decreases pain and increases mobility of the neck and shoulders.
Learn more about Apilloz here